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More Afghan Taliban Members Arrested by Pakistan


Pakistani officials say they have captured at least seven senior members of the Afghan Taliban hiding in Pakistan. The militants are known to have been hiding in the Pakistani city of Quetta near the Afghan border and are known as members of the "Quetta Shura". The biggest catch was Mullah (Abdul Ghani) Baradar, the Afghan Taliban's top military commander. He was captured in the Pakistani city of Karachi in a joint operation of U.S. and Pakistani agents. Experts discuss what the arrests mean for Pakistan-US relations and President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan.

Pakistan continues its fight against Pakistani Taliban in the northwestern tribal areas.

And U.S. drone attacks continue to target hideouts of Afghan Taliban who have crossed into Pakistan.

But in recent weeks, for the first time, Pakistan, with help from US intelligence, has also arrested several leaders of the Afghan Taliban, members of the so-called "Quetta Shura," including the number two, Mullah (Abdul Ghani) Baradar.

The arrests have been called a major development in the eight-year Afghan war and a possible shift in Pakistan's strategy.

"It's a big success for our mutual efforts in the region," says White House spokesman Robert Gibbs who spoke after Mullah Baradar's arrest.

The Obama administration says getting Pakistan to crack down on Afghan militants on its soil is key to winning the war in Afghanistan.

Afghan insurgents have long enjoyed safe haven in Pakistan so analysts have been discussing the reasons behind the arrests.

"President Obama sent a letter through General [James] Jones to President [Asif Ali] Zardari appealing to the Pakistanis to crack down on the Afghan Taliban and other groups threatening the international community," says Lisa Curtis at the Heritage Foundation. She adds, "If Pakistan does that there will be an enhanced US-Pakistani relationship. The US would do what it could to enhance Pakistan's sense of security in the region."

It's unclear whether Pakistan's crackdown on the Afghan Taliban will continue.

"If that happens, that means the safe haven the Taliban has enjoyed for the last nine years in Pakistan is coming to an end," Bruce Riedel at the Brookings Institution stated. "That is a huge change in the situation."

He notes that most of the Afghan Taliban arrests were made in Karachi, far from the usual hideouts in Quetta, near the Afghan border. "Why did they move to Karachi? The single simplest reason is the Drones. The Drones made operating in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Northwest Frontier Province more hazardous," Riedel said.

"We have also seen in the past Pakistan arresting major al-Qaida leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and yet not fully cracking down on the groups that are fighting the coalition forces in Afghanistan. So it is too early to say it denotes a complete shift in Pakistan's strategy, but it certainly is a step in the right direction," Curtis said.

Pakistan's arrests of Afghan Taliban is selective, not a fundamental change in policy, says Ashley Tellis at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "There are still major groups out there, both insurgent groups and terrorist groups, that have not yet been at the receiving end of the Pakistani state's attention. Lashkar-e-Taiba is one, Jaish-e-Mohammad is another, the (Afghan) Haqqani network is the third," Tellis said.

Analysts say Pakistan's arrest of Afghan Taliban shows that President Obama's new approach to Pakistan could work.

But they say any change in Pakistan's attitude will be gradual, not a switch that can be turned on in a day.

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